Tag Archives: football

Women’s Football Blast – September 7th

It was a big week for the international side and the Women’s National League Returns.

Cailín in Green

Looking at the table, Irish eyes have to be smiling…

Sweden Qualify Automatically For the World Cup
Ireland Progress To The Second Round Of The European Section Of The Play-Offs

In 2017 the Irish women were forced to threaten strike action over the conditions they had to work in. Now Ireland have comfortably finished in second place in a qualifying group, are one of the best group runner-ups, and have only lost one game in doing so. That one game was a narrow loss to Sweden, who had just won an Olympic medal. A narrow 0-1 loss where Ireland had chances.

The Finland game postmatch scene saw celebrations, and rightfully so. In the subsequent games from other groups the results went the right way which meant Ireland’s path to the World Cup became somewhat clearer while still being needlessly complicated.

Coming into the Slovakia match the atmosphere was odd. Ireland had done what they needed in a huge game, but still had so much to play for. A win would mean Ireland could potentially get to the World Cup in one game, rather than 2. That being said, Ireland could have needed anywhere between 1 to 4 games to qualify, because it’s all a bit complicated (we’ll explain later).

Ireland got the win they needed. It wasn’t a particularly good game, and this Irish team is capable of much better performances. But sometimes you need to grind out a win on a tricky away day. The Slovakian’s offered more in the way of fouling than creating chances, but still, they had to be beaten. Denise O’Sullivan got the winning goal when she reacted to Jess Ziu’s ball. O’Sullivan read the play well and adjusted her position to get the crucial score.

That wasn’t it for the chances but it was it for the goals. A second or third would have made things less nervy, but a win was what was needed and it was achieved. Ireland were the better side and created a lot more so the 3 points were deserved.

Jess Ziu got the crucial assist, and she was very lively throughout. Ziu has long been touted as a future superstar. In the post match interview she said her focus now turns to putting in good performances at West Ham, where she recently moved. The winger has shown great composure and understanding of her position for such a young player. She is one of many talents in this side that would be particularly worthy of lighting up a World Cup.

The draw for the play-offs will be made on Friday. Ireland will be one of three teams that receive a bye to the second round. For baffling reasons that make no sense, that does not mean Ireland are guaranteed a draw against one of the six sides that will play a first round game. It really is all a bit confusing. So from here Ireland will either qualify after one game, or will need to play a further one or two games to qualify. We put together a guide for where Ireland go from here:

You would be forgiven if you have no idea what’s going on. Let’s just see what happens during the draw.

Next week we will take a look back at the full campaign and go through some of the big moments.

Women’s National League

With the international break over attention will turn to domestic matters. With six rounds to go the top two know if they win their remaining games they will be champions.

As It Stands…
1st place gets a place in the Champions League First Qualifying Round Tournament
Saturday 10th September Fixtures

Sligo Rovers vs Galway

The Showgrounds / 14:00

DLR Waves vs Athlone Town

UCD Bowl / 16:00

Treaty United vs Bohemians

Markets Field / 17:00

Wexford Youths vs Cork City

Ferrycarrig Park / 18:00

Shelbourne vs Peamount United

Tolka Park / 19:35

Shelbourne hosting Peamount is the standout tie. These games are usually highly unpredictable. Both have long been two of the top three sides in the league, but it hasn’t stopped these sides from occasionally putting a big score on the other. Last season Peas hammered Shels, this season it was the other way around. The league leaders have a few banana skins left in their run-in, and this is a major one. Peamount have had a disappointing season, but have bounced back in recent games and will be out to avenge their cup loss against this Saturday’s opponents.

DLR Waves and Athlone Town has become something of a mini-rivalry this season. Athlone are occupying the spot many felt Waves would be aiming for this year. Not only that, but the midlands side have beaten Waves twice so far. The first meeting between the sides suffered due to unnecessary rescheduling (it ended up being played on a Tuesday and neither side had had a training session since their last game). Athlone got the win through an unfortunate own goal. The most recent meeting saw the same victors, but a much more entertaining affair. This one could be one of the games of the season.

A Connacht derby is something we are not quite used to in this league yet, but Sligo will be looking to get one over on their provincial rivals. Bohs will be looking to keep pace in the race to finish in the top half when they face a Treaty United side without a win. Wexford Youths will know a win is a must against a resurgent Cork side to put pressure on the league leaders ahead of their game.

Internationals Return

It’s always interesting to see how players away on international duty adapt to being back to the bread and butter of the league. The Ireland squad saw a total six players from the WNL travel.

  • Eve Badana (DLR Waves)
  • Jessie Stapleton (Shelbourne)
  • Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United)
  • Ellen Molloy (Wexford Youths)
  • Aoibheann Clancy (Wexford Youths)
  • Abbie Larkin (Shelbourne)

Of those only Molloy saw game time, coming on against Slovakia. The highs of being in camp will have been exhilarating for all six, especially for the achievements involved. Now it remains to be seen if it’s difficult to return to focusing on the games this weekend without having October 11th in mind.

Realistically I don’t think it will be an issue in terms of mentality. All those players will know that if they want to make that squad for the play-offs they need to keep performing. It is, however, possible that fatigue could play a role.

Across the Water

With the English Women’s Super League returning, there is plenty of Irish interest involved. Most of the players in the squad play in England, whether it’s the top or second tier, and Vera Pauw will be keeping a close eye on who gets consistent game time. Leanne Kiernan had a super year last season for Liverpool who achieved promotion to the WSL. She is one to keep an eye on as she tries to force her way into the Ireland starting XI.

Make sure you follow @PostToPostSport on Twitter and Instagram. If you enjoyed this WNL Blast please consider contributing to our fundraiser for Ireland’s National Autism Charity. All season we have been doing different fundraiser charities for to raise money for and awareness of As I Am. You can read all about our challenges so far and why we are doing this on our fundraiser page here. And you can contribute to the fundraiser on our iDonate here.

Champions League Club Profiles

Here’s a quick word on each of the 32 sides that qualified for the Champions League group stages.

Group A

Ajax

Qualification Route:

Won the Eredivisie to qualify automatically

The most successful Dutch team ever having won 36 leagues and 20 cups. Ajax have won 8 European trophies and made the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019. Typically have a rebuilding job on their hands after each season with multiple young talents moving on to bigger money clubs.

Napoli

Qualification Route:

Finished 3rd in Serie A to qualify automatically

Domestically the last few seasons have seen Napoli have some false dawns in terms of title challenges, but still consistently make the Champions League. Some big names have departed including Senegalese captain Kalidou Koulibaly, midfielder Fabian Ruiz, and playmaker Lorenzo Insigne.

Liverpool

Qualification Route:

Finished 2nd in the English Premier League to qualify automatically

Beaten finalists last season, Liverpool were very close to ending their campaign with 4 trophies. They’ve won this competition more than any other English side, but have had a slow frustrating start to the league campaign after lifting the Community Shield.

Rangers

Qualification Route:

Entered into the 3rd Qualifying Round as Scottish Premiership Runners-up

Close to being top seeds in the competition but lost the Europa League on penalties last season. The 4th oldest club in Scotland were forced to make their way up through the Scottish leagues having entered administration in 2012.

Group B

Porto

Qualification Route:

Won the Primiera Liga to qualify automatically

Came out of nowhere to win the competition in 2004 under a Portuguese coach who is probably still around somewhere. 3 Portuguese titles in 5 seasons have meant they are ever presents in the Champions League.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Qualification Route:

Finished 3rd in the German Bundesliga to qualify automatically

Leverkusen hold the record for the most 2nd place finishes in the German league without ever winning it. The made the Champions League Final in 2002 but were beaten by Real Madrid. Czech star Patrick Schick will be their key man for goals.

Atletico de Madrid

Qualification Route:

Finished 3rd in La Liga to qualify automatically

Became something of a romantics dream during the last decade. Atleti broke the duopoly of Barca and Real by winning La Liga, and were inches away on two occasions from winning the Champions League. Diego Simeone’s side aren’t underdogs anymore, but you can still expect plenty of shithousery.

Club Brugge

Qualification Route:

Won the Belgian First Division A to qualify automatically

Runners-up of the European Cup back in the 70’s, Club Brugge are the only Belgian team to have reached the final. They are the record holders for the most consecutive seasons of the Europa League at 20, but didn’t feature last season as they finished bottom of their UCL group with 4 points.

Group C

Bayern Munich

Qualification Route:

Won the German Bundesliga to qualify automatically

Bayern have won 10 German Bundesliga titles in a row. In that time they have lifted the Champions League twice. Ever green Thomas Müller and new signing Sadio Mané will lead the line. Superstar Joshua Kimmich has moved from his usual Right-Back position to a more central midfield role in the league games.

Inter Milan

Qualification Route:

Finished 2nd in Serie A to qualify automatically

Resigning Romelu Lukaku on loan will give them a big boost up front, last time he played for Inter his goals helped them win the league. Left-Back Robin Gosens and Forward Joaquin Correa are two new faces who could play a big part this season.

Barcelona

Qualification Route:

Finishes 2nd in La Liga to qualify automatically

For a team that is supposedly in financial disarray Barca have made multiple high profile signings. Young guns Pedri, Ansu Fati, and Frenkie De Jong will provide the spine of the team for years to come.

Viktoria Plzeň

Qualification Route:

Entered the second qualifying round as Czech First League

Improved domestically last season from finishing 5th in the previous campaign. The Czech Champions were eliminated in the Conference League Play-Offs last season, which may have helped them win the league. This is there 4th time reaching the groups stages of the Champions League. Viktoria Plzeň currently sit 2nd domestically and are unbeaten in the league. They’ve scored 11 goals.

Things to look out for: Robert Lewandowski will return to Bayern Munich after forcing through a move to Barcelona over the Summer.

Group D

Eintracht Frankfurt

Qualification Route:

Won the Europa League to qualify automatically

The German side will be regarded as the favorable top seed to be drawn against having finished in the bottom half of the Bundesliga last season. Frankfurt were fairly flat in the Super Cup. Former world cup winning goal scorer Mario Götze plays for them. Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp is an important figure, as is journeyman captain Sebastian Rode. This is their debut in the competition.

Sporting CP

Qualification Route:

Finished 2nd in the Primeira Liga to qualify automatically

Won their first league title in 19 years two seasons ago. Midfielder Pedro Gonçalves is their key man. Mixed results so far in the league see them sitting in 7th position.

Tottenham Hotspur

Qualification Route:

Finished 4th in the English Premier League to qualify automatically

Transformed under Antonio Conte, Spurs are now title contenders in England. Somehow made the final in 2019, this Tottenham team is now a lot more of a serious threat when it comes to winning trophies. Plenty of goals in the team with Harry Kane , Song Heung-min, and new signing Dejan Kulusevski.

Olympique de Marseille

Qualification Route:

Finished 2nd in Ligue 1 to qualify automatically

Won the Champions League in 1993, and remain the only French side to have done so. Unbeaten start to Ligue 1, Marseille are expected to be title contenders. Dimitri Payet is their captain.

Group E

AC Milan

Qualification Route:

Won Serie A to qualify automatically

One time giants of European Football. Milan won their first league title in 11 seasons to get back in the big time. Mike Maignan in net is already a superstar with young players like Alexis Saelemaekers and Sandro Tonali set to possibly have breakthrough seasons. They’ve won 7 European Cups, the most recent of which was in 2007.

Red Bull Salzburg

Qualification Route:

Won the Austrian Bundesliga to qualify automatically

One of two energy drink sides in the competition. The dominant side in Austria in recent seasons.

Chelsea

Qualification Route:

Finished 3rd in the English Premier League to qualify automatically

Won the whole thing in 2021. A bit of an enigma under Thomas Tuchel where things can be going really well or really badly. N’Golo Kanté returning from injury will be huge. Kai Havertz is the key man for the goals.

GNK Dinamo Zagreb

Qualification Route:

Entered the second qualifying round as Prva HNL Champions

The club that produced Luka Modric. Dinamo Zagreb have won a record 23 Croatian league titles. Their last game was their 150th European Cup game including qualifiers.

Group F

Real Madrid

Qualification Route:

Won the Champions League to qualify automatically

Went all the way last season coming from behind multiple times. Karim Benzema is the best striker in the world at the moment with Vinícius Júnor backing him up. Young guns Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga will help provide energy in a midfield with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos providing the experience. Super Cup winners.

Shakhtar Donetsk

Qualification Route:

Qualified automatically as the team that was top of the Ukrainian Premier League when it was abandoned

Will be playing their home games in Poland. Football is far from the biggest story in Ukraine with the ongoing war.

You can donate to support Ukraine at RedCross and UniCef.

RB Leipzig

Qualification Route:

Finished 2nd in the German Bundesliga to qualify automatically

Another energy drink side. Known as the most hated team in Germany. Christopher Nkunku is their key man.

Celtic

Qualification Route:

Won the Scottish Premiership to qualify automatically

Australian Ange Pstecoglou led Celtic to regain their league title last year. It’s Celtic’s first appearance in the group stage since 2008, and once again they are drawn to play the reigning champions. Ange ball has served them well this season with the Glasgow side so far. Kyogo Furuhasi, Liel Abada, and Jota will be key for them going forward.

Group G

Manchester City

Qualification Route:

Won the English Premier League to qualify automatically

Lots of money. Lots of goals. They’ve already scored 21 in 7 competitive games this season with Erling Haaland scoring almost half of those.

Borussia Dortmund

Qualification Route:

Finished 2nd in the German Bundesliga to qualify automatically

The last team to win the German Bundesliga that wasn’t Bayern Munich.

Sevilla

Qualification Route:

Finished 4th in La Liga to qualify automatically

The masters of the Europa League. Yet to really excel in the Champions League despite becoming a consistent top 4 team in Spain.

Copenhagen

Qualification Route:

Entered the play-off round as Danish Superliga Champions

Have played in European Football in all but one season since being established in 1992. The most successful Danish side when it comes to Europe, making the Last 16 of the UCL in 2011 and the Quarter-Finals of the Europa League in 2020.

Look Out For: In rounds 2 and 5 Haaland comes up against his former club Dortmund.

Group H

Paris Saint-Germain

Qualification Route:

Won Ligue 1 to qualify automatically

Big money. Yet to win a European trophy since the big money takeover in 2011, but did previously win the Cup Winners’ Cup. Dominant domestically thanks to their spending power.

SL Benfica

Qualification Route:

Entered the third qualifying round having finished 3rd in the Primeira Liga

Made the Quarter Finals last time but under-performed in the league. Benfica have lost a key man in Darwin Nunez.

Juventus

Qualification Route:

Finished 4th in Serie A to qualify automatically

Winning 9 consecutive Serie A titles didn’t translate to much European success. The Turin side has fallen down the pecking order in Italy in recent seasons. Hold the distinction of the most losses in the European Cup Finals.

Maccabi Haifa

Qualification Route:

Entered the second qualifying round as champions of the Israeli Premier League

A 3rd appearance in the Champions League group stage, and a first since 2010. More UCL appearances than any Israeli team.

Fun Fact: Juventus and Benfica are the only teams to have lost more European Cup finals then they have won (Juventus won 2 and lost 7, Benfica won 2 and lost 5).

Group Stage Match Dates

6th/7th September

13th/14th September

4th/5th October

11th/12th October

25th/26th October

1st/2nd November